A mix of local and national issues were tackled by the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding’s electoral hopefuls during an all-candidates forum held in Sicamous Monday night.
Organized by the Sicamous chamber, the forum offered Eagle Valley residents an opportunity to hear the candidates – Conservative Mel Arnold, Liberal Cindy Derkaz, Green Chris George and the NDP’s Jacqui Gingras – respond to pre-written questions in a non-debate format. That, however, didn’t stop the contenders from taking shots at their competitors’ parties.
The gauntlet was dropped with opening remarks and Arnold’s touting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said would create a stronger economy for Canada and more jobs.
“That trade agreement will open up those doors to expand markets, not just for our dairy producers and our fruit producers, but for our manufacturers, for our innovative technology people that can actually now trade across those borders… by expanding our markets, those are what’s going to enable an area like this to grow and expand,” Arnold later explained when asked about how to improve the local economy.
On that topic, Gingras was critical of trade deals conducted in secret, stating the NDP would cut the small business tax by two per cent, work to protect local agriculture and establish a national childcare program. Derkaz touted the need for investment in infrastructure, noting the Liberals will run a deficit to do this, and put the money in the hands of local governments. She also supported affordable housing and creating more opportunities for agriculture. George said the Greens too would support infrastructure spending, committing one per cent of GST to it and, like the Liberals, assuring the money would go to local government. He also championed youth employment with the Greens establishing a Community and Environment Service Corps.
Asked for their vision of the CBC, George, Derkaz and Gingras each championed restoration of funding to the national broadcaster, and establishing a management board that’s at arm’s length from government. Arnold, however, said the CBC needs to be more self-sustaining and “accountable to their viewers and their advertisers.”
The last question of the evening had the candidates discussing the Tories’ anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. Gingras said the bill infringes on Canadian’s rights and freedoms and that it needs to be repealed.
“We already have the laws necessary to protect us,” said Gingras. “It’s an illusion, a false choice, that we need to take away our rights and freedoms in order to protect us.”
Arnold said the bill would enable law enforcement agencies to share information, noting judicial approval would still be required to conduct surveillance.
“The fear-mongering that’s going on over Bill C-51 is simply not true,” said Arnold.
George said he read the act, and “by the time I got to the criminal code amendments that are going to allow five-day’s detention without charge, secret trials never to be made public, with anonymous witnesses, I knew this wasn’t Canada.”
Derkaz said the bill goes way too far, and that a Liberal government would amend it so as to balance national security with civil liberties.